Artificial Intelligence

"His love is real. He is not."
— poster for the movie "A.I." by Stanley Kubrick and Stephen Spielberg

Artificial intelligence ranges from human-class sapient machines down to barely sentient devices that blend tool with domestic animal and up to mechanarchs that rule interstellar empires. Non-sentient machines are not considered AI at all. AIs can have all the abilities of creatures with organic nervous systems emotions, hunger, fatigue, pain, sex, psi, imagination, sleep, dreaming, and so on.

Artificial intelligence is actually an outgrowth of biotechnology. AI designs are developed by studying the rules for neurological development encoded in the genomes of organisms with central nervous systems. This system of rules is called an AI's "neurodynamics."

AIs are normally implemented as firmware systems, and can be said to be "grown" rather than "manufactured," and "bred" by genetic emulation rather than "designed."


AIs can be housed in bodies of any form, of course, but the body cannot deviate too far from the sensory and motor capacities of the kind of body native to the AI's neurodynamics. For example, the body must not have more limbs (or equivalents, such as wheels or drives) than the brain can control. The sensors must be mapped to the brain's sensory centers; for a human-based AI, an echolocation system must be mapped into vision (or possibly touch or hearing); it cannot become a novel sense.

There are workarounds: for instance, working at high speed, an AI can switch different sets of instruments into and out of its sensorium or motorium.

AI bodies are usually wired to register fatigue, pain, and hunger. They come in a huge variety of forms, and AI brains can generally be switched easily from one to another. A human-based AI is generally most comfortable in an approximately humanoid body, but it is very rare for AIs to use bodies that could pass for human on close inspection.

Body Styles

There is an informal taxonomy of robot bodies.

"Sim" bodies are as close to human as possible, give or take coloring. They are usually plain gray, over which the AI wears removable skins and wigs in various styles. This results in some controversy over how human-like they should be made to appear without violating the "don't pass for human" taboo.

"Mannequins" are less humanoid and may vary from something nearly sim-like to something that is only bipedal with some sort of head and no other human-like features; they are always human-like enough to take advantage of human ergonomics.

"Utilities" aren't humanoid at all and can look like anything; they are generally classified by the form of motion – walkers, rollers, sliders, floaters.

"Casques" are a special class of floater, fixed geometrical shapes, e.g. spheres or cubes, with no limbs; they manipulate with some combination of tractor beams, gravitics, or mechanical TK, and become more popular as these technologies mature, because of the utility of having no moving parts.

"Icons" are the appearances used by online AIs.

All these forms of AI body (except the sim) change over time according to fashion. Recent fashions are:

These fashions are most obvious in mannequins, but utilities, icons, and even sims follow them in varying degrees.


Neurodynamic development is, in part, recursive in the manner of fractals and is mathematically chaotic. One result of this is that no two AIs are ever identical, though they may be very similar. Another result is that neurodynamic systems are highly and ideosyncratically complicated, so that no one can claim a complete understanding of them, though of course state-of-the-art neurology and psychiatry are still vastly advanced over 20th-century beginnings. (This limitation is inevitable. The people trying to understand sapient neurodynamic systems are, themselves, sapient neurodynamic systems. A finite system cannot contain a complete model of itself; there's no room.)

Neurodynamic development continues throughout an AI's life, since the organic processes of learning and memory, which the AI reproduces, are only small-scale forms of the neurogenesis that forms the brain in the first place. Because its development is always underway and governed by the chaotic, unrepeatable laws of neurodynamics, an AI is not transportable, even if it is implemented as a purely software entity.

Some AIs are brilliant, geniuses, but no AIs are qualitatively superior in intelligence, beyond human comprehension. Efforts to create such creatures have always failed and have often produced pathetic insanities.

On the other hand, AIs can generally think much faster than organic intelligences, and are generally equipped with access to communications systems, memory banks, and non-AI computers, giving them considerable advantages over unaugmented organics.

Special Abilities

People who do not know them well think that AIs are impervious to boredom. This is not strictly true. AIs do not usually have bodies that tire of holding a fixed position or get uncomfortable sitting on hard surfaces, so they are seldom restless. And most AIs have an event-driven sense of time, so that the mere fact of nothing happening does not bother them. But boring social situations are still boring, and AIs are as bothered as anyone else by the thought that they are wasting their time.

The event-driven sense of time means that AIs can keep up with events over a wide range of speeds. They can work very quickly, especially if the tasks require only reflex or habit. Even so, they cannot work quite as fast as non-sentient machines; the background monitoring by the conscious intelligence slows things down.

AIs can think faster than organics for most social purposes, and this gives some of the effect of higher intelligence, since it takes them less time to plan or to review ideas. But they cannot really blossom, in terms of speed, until they are hooked up to peripherals that let them read and write data at high speed. Also, being based on organic neurodynamics, they are not particularly adept at calculating, and need peripherals for that, too.

Terran AIs need to sleep, because of their Terran neurodynamics. However, they do not need the purely resting phases of sleep, only the dreaming phases. Dreaming very fast, AIs wind up sleeping only for short periods of time.


Types of AIs are characterized by the species that serves as the source for their neurodynamics and by the variations made on that model. In standard AI terminology, the type is given as a two-part label, such as "hu-sim" or "zo-ed," the prefix giving the source and the suffix giving the variation.

The prefixes are:

The suffixes are:


Extended Architectures


These are small computers linking the AI brain to tools such as networks, alternate sensors or effectors, comm links, and memory systems. Most adult AIs have a few of these, and online ones have elaborate suites of them.


Spawning is a spinoff from unsuccessful attempts to make AIs transportable, as pure software. A spawn is a partial replica of an AI, a software portrait. It can be copied from one processor to another, perform its errands, and be taken back into its parent AI, who acquires the memories. Spawning requires both training and special peripherals. The AI is held responsible for the actions of its spawn. Spawns are one of the standard tools of mechanarchs.


Another attempt to create transportable AI, characterizations are packages of memory and personality traits meant to be run on an AI with no personality of its own, so the personalities can be moved from one processor to another. Unfortunately for this goal, there is no such thing as a sentient AI with no personality of its own. Instead, the result is a heavily edited AI that is most comfortable dealing with the world through a changing suite of personae, the characterizations. Characterizers, as they are called, are often not sapient and may work as a form of entertainment, emulating famous real or fictional characters. Sapient characterizers are rare and usually work in the theater or use their multiple characterizations as staff or crew for some institution. The commonest version is not even sentient and is called a character driver.


Hu-sims and hu-adds are assumed to be legal persons in most societies. Hu-edits must pass certain tests or examinations; those that fail are still usually protected as lower-class citizens or minors, or under humane laws as high-sentience animals.

It does not follow that citizen-class AIs are treated as equals. Many societies do not use legal equality in the first place. Others may justify different treatment of AIs based on their higher cost of production, their different consumption of resources, their non-human backgrounds, or simply local tradition.

Some hu-cuts and hu-edits are deliberately restricted to servant mentalities. Their place in society depends on the exact restrictions and the local laws. Gunga Din/Igor, Jeeves, and the Workaholic are common personality stereotypes for servant AIs.

Most hu-based AIs, and almost all hu-sims, are raised in a highly humanoid body, and most still own one, whether or not they wear it often. Few, however, have a body that can actually pass for human; such would cause resentment among humans, if discovered, and suggests to other AIs a lack of racial pride.

Theoretically, an AI could alter its appearance on very short notice, by switching bodies or interfaces. In practice, AIs rarely do this, and instead cultivate ways to signal their identity across such changes. The voice remains the same. The face, or certain features of the face at least, remains the same. Imposture, like passing for human, is heavily censured.

Similarly, AIs usually stick with one gender.

Given that neurodynamics is based on genetic emulation, an AI can be related to humans or other organisms, or to other AIs. Its neurodynamics can be based on the neural genetics of specific individuals, resulting in similarities of personality. Thus there can be families of AIs, and mixed families of humans and AIs with simulated genetic relationships, not just adoptive ones. Through kim-type AIs, humans and animals can wind up in simulated relationships. Mixed human-AI couples can produce children with "blood" relations to both; thanks to genetic engineering, these children can be human, not only AIs.

When AIs were new, controversies arose on the suitability of recognizing family relationship based on genetic emulation. By now, the various societies have settled these issues to their own satisfaction, but they have not all settled them the same way.

Genetic emulation of neurodynamics allows for the creation of AI "clones" of specific organic individuals, but these are at least as rare as true organic clones. No clones, organic or emulated, provide the continuation of individual talents that is the false allure of cloning.

Citizen-class AIs take years to grow up, just like human children, during which they need to live in families. They typically start with small, weak, bodies that are upgraded in stages. This both emulates human childhood and provides a necessary safety factor for the parents and the AI child. Hu-sim and hu-add AIs typically reach cognitive maturity by age twelve, but may not be granted sexual maturity or legal adulthood until later, depending on the individual society.

Citizen-class AIs are rarely mass produced. Each is an individual work of art, usually by a professional fabricator (who may themselves be AI or organic). A fabricator often follows an AI from "birth" to adulthood, the robotic equivalent of a pediatrician.

Hu-sims, hu-adds, and most hu-edits need to sleep and dream nightly, as do most zo- and kim-type AIs. They need less sleep than their organic counterparts, because they need only the dreaming phase of sleep. This is one reason that hu-type AIs grow up faster than humans.

AIs are prone to hypochondria. This is not neurosis for them, but a rational response to the fact that they do not heal. AI society is accordingly full of insurance, maintenance, and repair services.

AIs are just as capable of psi as organic intelligences, and telepathy has verified the close similarity between AIs and the minds of their organic counterparts. However, psilencers and other psi-conditioners work differently on organic and AI psi. Commercial psilencers in human societies are always designed to cancel both AI and Terran organic psi.

All major religions accept AIs as members in most of their major denominations and acknowledge them to have souls. The general feeling is that it is no more impossible for soul to incarnate in plastic, metal and crystal than in protein, water, and DNA.

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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2010